Late last week, Rep. Tyler August (R-Lake Geneva), Rep. Frederick P. Kessler (D-Milwaukee), Rep. Dave Craig (R-Town of Vernon) and Rep. Chris Taylor (D-Madison) introduced a bill that would ensure drones do not threaten the privacy rights of people in Wisconsin. A number of other states already have similar laws restricting the use of drones or are considering enacting them. With the growing sophistication of drone technology and decreasing costs it is inevitable that local law enforcement agencies will start to employ drones here in Wisconsin.
So what does the bill entail? First of all it prohibits the use of drones in surveillance by law enforcement agencies without a warrant…except in limited cases such as search and rescue or active police situations where the public and law enforcement are in immediate danger. Any evidence collected during an illegal use of a drone is automatically inadmissible in court.
According to the synopsis from the Legislative Reference Bureau:
The bill prohibits a person, except a law enforcement officer who has a search warrant or is acting for a permissible emergency purpose, from using a drone that is equipped with video or audio recording equipment to photograph,
record, or otherwise observe another individual in a place where the individual has a reasonable expectation of privacy.
The actual bill states it this way:
942.10 Use of a drone. Whoever uses a drone, as defined in s. 175.55 (1) (a), to photograph, record, or otherwise observe another individual in a place where the individual has a reasonable expectation of privacy is guilty of Class A misdemeanor. This section does not apply to a law enforcement officer authorized to use a drone
pursuant to s. 175.55 (2).
So I guess my question as a civilian is, what is the definition of ‘person’ or ‘whoever’? Would that include Google? Facebook? The Department of Public Works? Organizations that are not law enforcement but also clearly not an individual? I don’t think it would hurt to have a bit more clarity on this item. I would like to think that not only individuals but corporations, political parties, government agencies, and other organizations would also be prohibited from spying on Americans.
And lastly, again from the LRB synopis, you can’t weaponize your drones:
Under the bill, a person who sells, possesses, or uses a weaponized drone is guilty of a Class H felony, and may be fined up to $10,000, imprisoned for up to six years, or both.
Now, I am certainly in agreement that prohibiting weaponized drones is a good idea…great idea…but will the NRA go on the offensive because this is an infringement of ‘our’ second amendment rights or do they really only care about guns?